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A Midwestern Road trip Itinerary: Colorado, Utah, Arizona

A three state guide to finding beauty and adventure across the rocky landscapes of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.

yellow flowers in a grassy plain with a red cliff in the background


The hasty, spontaneous idea to travel through the Wild West came to fruition in Denver, Colorado. The state best known for its towering mountains, crystal rivers, powder-white ski slopes (and cannabis) was the starting point of the adventure.

Denver is the perfect mix of metropolitan and earthy adventures, considering the city’s close proximity to the mountains. Drive thirty minutes out and you’ll see some serene mountainous landscapes, which is the perfect place to begin your Midwestern road trip.

Lookout Mountain Park

a car drives on a mountain road

The same place where the iconic cowboy Buffalo Bill is buried, there are some wonderful views along with his grave site. It overlooks what seems like endless mountains and the air feels crisp and refreshing.

It is a place to relax and get your heads together before being stuck in a car for hours at a time. If anyone is into cowboy memorabilia, a stop into the Buffalo Bill museum is an awesome spot. They will also have classic American food like burgers and hot dogs, which you can eat while enjoying the breathtaking views of Colorado.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Of course, a true Denver experience would not be complete without visiting one of its most iconic parks, Red Rocks. Doubling as an amphitheater, the park is also a venue for many music concerts. The iconic amphitheater is surrounded by massive red rock formations, which gives it its name. There are many little paths that are offered to hikers among them.

a woman looks through an open hole in a red rock wall


After a day of exploration in Colorado, it’s time to set off towards probably one of America’s least appreciated states: Utah. Even driving hundreds of untouched miles between the border of Colorado and the first signs of civilization in Utah produced unequivocal beauty. It was miles and miles of the rocks and jagged cliffs that you would expect from an old Western film.

Arches National Park & Moab

The first stop is Utah’s most iconic feature: Arches national park. But beware, the parking situation is extremely limited. Our first attempt to go to arches ended in failure when the parking lot was restricted due to the sheer amount of people there. We made the mistake of getting there at around 2 p.m., so if you want to level your chances of getting a spot, get there early in the morning.

While we waited, we explored the little town of Moab, which was surprisingly an adorable little mecca in the middle of the dessert. We were amazed at the little, cozy, hipster vibes this town gave. It was full of art stores, bookshops, coffeshops, and other local little outlets. It was a great place to sip a coffee while the parking sitation at Arches cleared up.

Thankfully we reached a bit of luck once we went back to the national park and were able to enter. Entering the park, you will drive by some of the most impressive feats of nature you will ever encounter. Boulders the size of skyscrapers, balancing on top of each other. Crimson cliffs contrasting against the bright blue sky. It looked like something out of mars.

Camping Under the Stars

Some consider camping for crazy people, but I implore even the most unadventurous of people to go camping at least once in their lives. And what better place than the heart of Utah’s cliffs!

Even at first, I was freaked out by the idea of sleeping outside and peeing in a bush, but the serene feeling of being at one with the mountains and the endless sky made that feeling wash away.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of really inexpensive AirBnb options that are made for people to camp at. We found one in Virgin, Utah, with a spectacular view of the nearby rock faces (but beware of the heart-attack inducing car ride up the narrow edges of the cliffs).

Bring some bratwurst and s’mores to roast over the campfire and you will have an unforgettable experience under the stars.

Heavenly Angel’s Landing

The plan for this day was the most energy consuming one yet. The destination was Utah’s Zion National Park. As one of the U.S’s most revered national parks, it holds many adventurous hikes; like the Pa’rus Trail, known for its immaculate stargazing, and The Narrows, which takes place in a canyon lined with water.

Naturally, we chose the most risky option, Angel’s Landing, which is often said to be the most dangerous hike in all of the U.S.A Bring a lot of water and try not to look down, because the hike involves a lot of heavy, uphill hiking as well as extremely narrow surfaces overlooking steep cliffs. There was even one point where we had to cross a slim surface, looming over a hundred foot-drop with nothing to hold onto but a metal chain.

But once we made it to the top, past bounds of self-doubt and anxiety, we understood why so many people were eager to embark on the adrenaline-inducing hike.


Grand Canyon

Once we entered the Grand Canyon, the only think I could think was “wow it really is grand”. To be honest, I went in assuming the Grand Canyon was overhyped, over visited, and would not be as great as every one made it out to be.

I was delightfully wrong. It’s actually humbling, how vast it is and how it has the ability to make a human feel like a tiny speck of dust as they stare into the miles of unperturbed rock.

Once you’re at there, you really want to be sure that you can truly take in the view. One of the best ways to do this is by renting a bicycle. By renting a bicycle and exploring the trails along the canyon, we were able to see it from many different points of view and enjoy the time in nature. It was also a great way to stretch our legs after long hours in the car.

Monument Valley

Thankfully, our choice of AirBnb was near the iconic Monument Valley. You may know it as the place that Forrest Gump ceased his national jog across the United States. While it was a quick stop and mainly a photo op, it was satisfying being able to recreate the iconic movie scene (just look out for cars).

The Conclusion to our midwestern road trip

After the plenty of beautiful (and exhausting) sights in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, we decided to make our way home. While there are plenty of places to stop at and explore on the way back, we bit the bullet and made the long stretch straight home.

But on the way back to Denver, there is still boundless beauty you can enjoy from the car. The ride back consisted of Native American reservations featuring their homemade art, homey restaurants owned by the locals of tight-knit communities, and trees so tall that you’ll feel lost in them.

It was amazing to see snowy mountains in Aspen when a few hours ago you were in the sunny desert of Arizona. The midwest and all its offerings were an emblem for the remarkable beauty the United States has to share. The road trip was truly an eyeopener for the country’s diverse landscapes, and I truly hope you can safely explore this too.

If you are looking to follow our same road trip experience, here is the Google Maps screenshot of our itinerary:

A google maps screenshot


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